Prostitution, Women, and Misuse of the Law: The Fallen Daughters of Eve

Prostitution, Women, and Misuse of the Law: The Fallen Daughters of Eve

Prostitution, Women, and Misuse of the Law: The Fallen Daughters of Eve

Prostitution, Women, and Misuse of the Law: The Fallen Daughters of Eve

Synopsis

Focusing upon the 1950s, and especially the 1957 Wolfenden Report, Helen Self's study thoroughly exposes the sexual double standard and general misogynist assumptions underlying British legislation relating to prostitution.

Excerpt

Whoever has walked through Regent Street, Queen Street and other offshoots from the Quadrant, must have observed a great number of bold-looking overdressed women, unmistakably foreign, displaying a profusion of showy jewellery and wearing indescribable bonnets. Who then are these strangers whose cheeks appear to bloom with rude health, who seem from their leering looks and indiscriminate smiles of invention to be so happy? Who apparently possess such large stores of gold and jewellery and who array themselves in velvet and satin? They are a portion of the fallen daughters of Eve. The outward impression will not, however, bear the test of examination. Their diamonds are false, their gold is neither that of Australia or California, it is manufactured in Birmingham. The roses on their cheeks vanish at the visitation of a few drops of rain, the healthy colour disappears and a cadaverous complexion with repulsive features present themselves [sic] to the beholder. They have long lost their sense of shame and modesty, they do not even think their impure calling is against the morals of society or opposed to the laws of virtue; they have descended to that depth of degradation at which they regard their profession somewhat in the same light as the tradesman regards his retail business.

According to the actor Peter Ustinov, we develop our prejudice towards others through those institutions that we most respect, that is, the Church, the school and the family. The consequence of this early indoctrination can be the creation of widely held opinions that are notoriously difficult to influence. The following work addresses one such area of prejudice.

Through this introductory chapter I will familiarise the reader with the themes and arguments of my book and demonstrate how particular attitudes of ingrained prejudice towards prostitutes have impacted upon law and government policy. I will refer to a succession of government inquiries, including the major Wolfenden inquiry in 1957, which legitimated the continued labelling and stigmatisation of certain women for behaviour that was lawful if

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